Lasqueti Island lies in the Georgia Strait, north of French Creek (on Vancouver Island), and southwest of Texada Island. It is approximately 8 km wide and 22 km long, with an area of 73.56 km2. About 425 permanent residents call Lasqueti home (2011 census). It is accessible by foot passenger ferry service only, or by private boat or plane.
The roads are unpaved and the island has no public transportation. There are no public camp grounds. Lasqueti is not serviced by B.C. Hydro. Residents live either without electricity or with alternative sources of power like solar or micro-hydro. There is very little industry and no bustling economy.
|"Lasqueti -- halfway between Dogpatch and Shangri-la"|
|as the island cookbook describes it.|
Residents are accused of trying to put the clock back, living a self-sufficient lifestyle reminiscent of an earlier century. Lasqueti ís the place where the conversation is more likely about solar panels or composting toilets than about microwaves or toasters -- foreign objects for most of the 400 residents. Nobody can work a five-day week away from home because it takes three days work just to survive -- to cut firewood, to maintain power, water, and waste systems, to work in your garden to produce your food. An island of individuals, with poets, artists, physicists, fishermen, loggers, tree planters, designers, professional musicians, published authors, some small scale manufacturers, some commercial agriculture, mariculture as well as professional consultants in education, engineering, forestry and alternate energy make up a population that Statistics Canada says is the most highly educated community in British Columbia. Lasqueti lies about 50 miles northwest of Vancouver in the Strait of Georgia. The island is about 12 miles long and three miles wide, the same size and shape as Manhattan.
Many folks contact us through the website wondering how they can visit Lasqueti and experience our unique lifestyle (I've posted a few sample messages below for your amusement :-)
However you decide to come, and whatever you are hoping to find here, please keep this in mind: Lasqueti is not some utopian paradise, it is not an "intentional community", and it is probably not whatever you think it is - it is just a relatively remote island, populated by a small, tight-knit community of quirky, independent-minded people, with its own unique culture and identity. Come with an open mind, a willingness to discover something a little different, and without rigid expectations. Resist the urge to project upon us your vision of what this place "should" be. It is what it is, and we like it this way, warts and all. If you can get with that, you too may find a place here.
A few important things to note:
We get 3 or 4 requests a month asking how one goes about visiting / renting / buying / working on Lasqueti, or just about what life is like here.
Here are few real messages we have received, with apologies for my irreverent answers:
Is there free land in Lasqueti?
Living on the island seems like the perfect place for me to go, I just don't know what I'll do when I get there, or first of all, how I will get there. Any tips or help?
Is everyone welcome to Lasqueti ?
Only nice people.
I am just wondering if you have camping available?
How much do you have to pay for land on the island
How much do I have to pay or how much do you have to pay?
I was wondering if anyone is allowed to move to Lasqueti Island?
We were wondering if there is some way to stop 'em.
i just need more info on migrating to your community. can you show up and just find crown land to live off of?
i was wanting to see if i am able to survive off the grid with my two small kids
i have most camping gear..please let me know.
I'd like to see that too!
I would like too buy some land on your island ,anything for sale?
Are there any Building Codes on the Island?
Yes, but no Building Inspectors
I must ask: Life there on Lasqueti seems like a rural paradise - I was wondering; how does one come to live in such a community or are all who live there descended from the original settlers?
It's not (paradise, that is); by moving (generally to Lasqueti, that is); No.
I heard about this place on the radio. Do you have an area for
vacationers? What is the weather like? What is there to do?
No. It rains constantly. Umbrella repair.
I have recently learned of your paradise and I would very much like to become a member.
It's not paradise! It's not a club
I am wondering if there is some matter I can apprentice to learn to fully survive on your island. I may have only a few skills, but I wish to contribute as much as I can.
It's all we'd ask of anyone :-) Try Jessie...
I'm wondering if a resident on the island would consider writing to me
and helping me figure out if moving there is a feasible idea? I'm looking
for information on living costs and the realities of living off-grid as a
single woman with little experience but a willingness to learn. Thanks for
You've come to the right place.
We've never been to the island and wondered if there is a pub at or near
the ferry dock.
I would like to know how i would become a member of the lasqueti
community.we are a young couple trying to get away from the everyday
Are you saying we're not normal? And this isn't a club!
I'm travelling around Canada with my friend Aurora, we think that the way you are living is very interesting, so we would like to meet you and stay a few days helping you or wathever. If it's possible please contact me, it would be so nice! thankyou and have a nice day!
We love you already - please come and WWOOF...
Hi. Saw the TV program and would love to live off the grid.
You saw it on TV, so it must be true!
I just saw a tv special on your island. I have to say it was one of the most inspirational things I have seen in a long time. The people that live there off the power and resources of the island amaze me. I think it is wonderful that you have found such a beautiful spot to enjoy the true wonders of the world in their natural state. I am not one that could cope with such a lifestyle, but I admire those that can. I would love to be able to visit the island, but not sure how or if there are visitor type locations that I could stay. Do you offer accommodations for people that would like to experience the wonder of your world? I would love to be able to show my children that there is more to life than the conveniences of modern life. It scares me that they could possibly grow up not appreciating the enjoyment of life without tv, computers and cell phones. I would appreciate it if you could give me any information of accommodations that are available for visitors so I could plan a visit.
Please come - your kids need us. Visitors...
I came across your web site by accident when I saw your group profile
on http://kiva.org. I was interested in information about visiting Lasqueti
Island, perhaps as an initial visit to moving and living there.
Please come - Kiva rocks.
This is an updated, 2010, electronic copy of Doug Hamilton's book:
So you finally decided to make the big move to the country. Ah, the happy rural lifestyle--clean air, sparkling streams, friendly neighbors, a bursting vegetable garden, and goodbye forever to that stressful commute. But sometimes things are not as simple as they seem. While not exactly the center of polite conversation or learned discourse there lingers in the background of country living the nagging question of human waste. Many rural areas, particularly in the beautiful Gulf Islands, have no sewer pipe outlets, holding tanks, or processing areas. In the good old days before the current population explosion, a hole in the ground was grand, or even better, one could go for a soulful dump in the deep blue sea. Greywater was pitched out the window without a second thought. Incredibly, some cities like Victoria still show their respect for our environment by dumping human waste and greywater directly into the ocean without treatment.
The problem of shyte disposal is not academic question to be disputed in some ivory tower. Misplaced caca has caused more death and human suffering in the world than any other single factor throughout world history. Even a microscopic piece can be deadly-- jam packed with dangerous viruses, bacteria and parasites. Think hepatitis B, typhoid, diptheria, cholera, diarrhea, salmonella, hookworm, roundworm and many others, discovered and undiscovered. Many of these monsters have been quelled here, but thousands still die every day from their ravages in the third world. Be aware, one of the most deadly poisons known to humankind is produced by each and every one of us every day. Simply put, what has recently passed from a person’s (or animal) asshole must never find its way back into someone else’s mouth and digestive system.
|How to Shyte on Lasqueti (PDF)||84.29 KB|
In 2005, the rules and regulation concerning wastewater in British Columbia were drastically changed. As part of the Gordon’s Campbell’s obsession with privatization, the Health authorities lost control over such matters as septic fields and greywater. As a result, they have no advice, nor suggestions about these systems. Instead, overseeing greywater and septic planning has been turned over to the private sector industry, in this case the ASTTBC or Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia.
Their website for wastewater information is: http://wastewater.asttbc.org/c/index.php.
The rules are draconian, and intensely bureaucratic—yet another example of the narrow minded view that one-size-fits-all--in a province of mind boggling diversity in climate, terrain, ecosystems and population density. More and more these days one cannot do the simplest things around the home without falling afoul of the law and becoming a criminal. Here is a sample from the site.
The Sewerage System Regulation (SSR) provides for two types of ‘Authorized Person’: a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner and a Professional. No others may plan, install or maintain systems in British Columbia. Doing so is illegal and considered an offense under the Regulation.
Depending on training and qualifications, a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner (ROWP) plans, installs, maintains and/or inspects onsite systems. They are registered with the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia (ASTTBC). To be registered, individuals must complete the required education, a Professional Practice & Ethics exam, provide references, and demonstrate experience by successfully completing a Practice Assessment.
As far as I can tell there have been few prosecutions for breaching these regulations. It is hard to imagine a simple greywater system would excite much interest or criticism. But, if the health department receives a complaint and discovers a gross sewage violation, especially near a watershed used for collecting drinking water, the punishment could be brutal—say a fine of $10,000-$100,000.
Of course, this author would never dream of inciting anyone to break the law. All suggestions in this little essay are purely theoretical and hypothetical.
The ASTTBC swears by the septic field. This time honored method involves digging out an area for large holding tank, and a 50’ by 50’ absorption field. Drainage pipes are buried in the field to disperse the waste. A mantle of specially approved gravel is laid to a depth of 10” along the pipes followed by another 3’ of imported sandy soil to improve absorption. In some places this method works very well, but it does have its problems. What happens when the homeowner’s yard is a rock bluff, which cannot be dug? Or, suppose the area is entirely under water during the winter months? These are not unusual circumstances in rural areas. In these cases, putting in septic field is a complete waste of time and money.
Then there is the problem of disposal. A septic tank has to be cleaned out every three to five years. These systems work on the basis of creeping failure. As solids build up in the tank and dispersal pipes, there is less space for the sludge and scum to settle out before seeping into the leaching field. Unattended, your system backs up, bringing a pond or stinking rotted sewage to the surface. Beware, when this happens your field has failed, and the whole thing will probably have to be replaced. In many rural areas it is simply not practical to bring in a truck to pump out your tank. Tankers must be barged over to isolated islands at great expense, and some areas are simply inaccessible for these large unwieldy vehicles. In these cases, it is not uncommon for the landowner to take matters into his own hands and simply pump out the filthy contents of his tank on some remote area of his property. So why go to the enormous expense of installing a septic system in the first place?
There are other problems as well. A septic field is not a closed system and there cannot help but be some contamination of ground water. When a number of these fields are located in a crowded subdivision, wells and drinking water will be dangerously contaminated-- as happened on Mayne Island a few years ago. Plus these systems are vulnerable to physical damage. Grease, chemicals, diapers, coffee grounds, paper, plastics tampons, indeed, anything other than human waste, will clog and eventually destroy your septic field. Care must be taken not to compact the soil and pipes by forgetting their location and driving over them. And be careful not to get too intimate with your tank during inspection and cleanout. Every year there are always a few poor souls who pass out and expire, asphyxiated by the delicate fumes of their own waste.
Yes, I know. The great appeal of septic fields is that they encourage the comforting yet antiquated flush toilet. A quick jerk of the chain and all those embarrassing sights and smells vanish magically into the void forever. Such squeamishness may be regarded as criminal in the near future. So what are the alternatives?
If Septic Tanks have their failings, what are the alternatives?
When the urge strikes in the big outdoors and no “rest room” is available, look for a well-drained site with diggable soil, 150’ from the nearest lake or stream. The most powerful soil enzymes are in the top 8”, so dig a hole to that depth and cover. Use as little toilet paper as possible. Even better, crap into a plastic bag and pack it out. Of course, all toiletries like diapers, tampons, sanitary napkins and condoms should also be taken home and disposed of properly.
This time honored method works fine over the short term when the density of people is low. Outhouses though, leach their contents into watersheds over time as the waste is not sealed in a watertight container. In some parts of the undeveloped world it is not uncommon to see a drinking well and outhouse within a few feet of each other. This is obviously a recipe for disaster. But, an outhouse is better than nothing, so if you must use this method look for a well drained site at least 150’ from the nearest watershed.
In isolated inaccessible rural areas the most sensible and safest method for disposing of human wastes is composting.
In isolated inaccessible rural areas the most sensible and safest method for disposing of human wastes is composting. If you are short on time and long on money, a reliable commercial composting toilet can be purchased or constructed. Look online for factory made units and plans. The rudiments of rot allow for two methods of composting. Anaerobic (without oxygen) compost occurs when turds are all piled up on each other with no added organic material. This is what happens in the traditional outhouse. Here the process moves slowly and often incompletely. Foul smelling compounds like hydrogen sulfide are released and little heat is generated to kill pathogens. Aerobic composting (with oxygen) works quite differently. Handfuls of organic material sawdust, grass clippings, peat, straw or leaves are added each day after use. Periodically the contents are mixed by hand or motor for several weeks. The process takes place quite quickly and few smells and a lot of heat are generated. To add piss or not to add piss is an interesting question. Urine mixed with caca will present special problems, but it can be impossible to completely separate it. Piss is very high in nitrogen and can smother the composting process, so much additional organic matter will have to be added for successful composting if large quantities are being added to the mix. As urine is close to sterile when fresh, some simply collect it and store separately. It makes an excellent fast acting garden fertilizer when diluted 3 to 1 with water.
A homemade shyte composter can be easily assembled from simple materials. The container must be waterproof and leak free. It should also be kid and animal proof. A 4 to 45 gallon steel drum works nicely. (see diagram my book pg. 12) Or consider a 4’X4’X4’ wooden box lined with plastic with enough overlap to keep out the rain. This is also a good size to maximize heat retention. Top with a piece of plywood and add sawdust after each use. (see diagram my book pg. 14) It should take two people about 8 years to fill. Temperature is critical for successful composting. Organic materials do not begin to break down until the temperature reaches 18C, ands things slow down during the winter months. Paint the box black and leave it in the sun--- or even add a heating coil if you want it to process quickly. If the pile is too wet or too dry composting will be delayed. Below 40% moisture stops the process all-together, while above 70% causes the anaerobic process to take over. Somewhere in between leaves the pile damp but not sopping.
Remember you can never add too much sawdust, straw or leaves to your toilet and to your composter. Microorganisms need carbon for energy and growth. They also utilize a small amount of nitrogen. Thirty parts carbon to one part nitrogen is optimum for composting. Less than 20 to one and the pile starts to stink. The Ph will be slightly acidic so add a dash of lime or ashes now and again. For speedy action the pile should be thoroughly mixed every month for the first 6 months and then every 3 months. This feeds oxygen, nitrogen and carbon to the bacteria that are doing all the work. Keep your shyte stirring tools separate from regular gardening implements.
How long before your compost is safe to handle? Much depends on temperature. If you keep it above 18C you should have beautiful compost in 6 to 8 months. If your composter is outside and unheated, the time will be a good deal longer. Always err on the side of caution! Anyone with a serious infection like Hepatitis B, Giardia, or Cryptosporidium should be prepared to compost for several years. Never use your compost directly on food that will be eaten directly from the garden. Use instead on fruit trees and ornamentals.
But here’s a thought. When your composter fills up, simply abandon it and build another. The main thing is to keep fecal matter dry and isolated until it is thoroughly composted and safe. If you don’t feel comfortable or have the time to put extra energy into such things as turning the pile, and obsessing on temperature and moisture you really do not have to. Just mix your movement with sawdust in a watertight container and forget it. It will take longer to work out, but 15 years down the road when the box rots or rusts away it will be no danger to anyone. And using this homemade fertilizer in the orchard is not really necessary either, although it makes one feel a part of the great cycle of life and closer to the planet.
Everyone living in a rural area should have a working greywater system. Most do not, and many others do not even know what it is. For the record, greywater is all household waste water except sewage/toilet water (better known as black water). It includes water from laundry, dishes and the bath. Because of dangerous fecal contamination, it would not include diaper rinse, or water used in cleaning animal stables, or bath water from someone with a communicable disease. But the line is a fine one. Greywater will usually contain some level of black materials like dead skin, food particles hair saliva, grease, detergents, crap residue , bacteria and chemicals. The question is how much is too much?
Because of the possible dangers, most municipalities do not distinguish between black and grey water. All household wastewater is considered black and must be disposed of in a sewer pipe, septic field or collecting depot. In areas with septic fields only, this puts a tremendous strain on the system. Our wastewater authorities are encouraging the use of septic fields to dispose of greywater, but owners should realize that the life of their field can be greatly prolonged by reducing water input. As an alternative, a simple system can be set up for home use cheaply and easily. Here area few suggestions.
So what are we to make of this story of caca, piss and dishwater? It is unfortunate that the authorities are clinging to old 19th century technologies in dealing with human waste problems today. Septic fields and sewer pipes certainly had their place at one time, but the many shortcomings of these systems dictate the need for a whole new approach. And consider the wastage of all that good humanure for fertilizer in a world of rapidly increasing hunger. Increasing populations and the shortage of fresh water will eventually force major changes in how this problem is handled. The writing is on the wall. It is a great pity that government and the private sector are not aggressively encouraging alternative technologies, especially in Canada’s Gulf Islands, where public treatment and cleanout facilities are sparse or nonexistent, except on the larger ones. After all, people have to dump their personal wastes and wash water somewhere.
As Aesop candidly observed way back in ancient Greece
“I dyde shyte tre grete toordes.”
(Fables of Aesop, Caxton Translation, Vol. 15, 1484).
Hopefully this little essay will spark some discussion about these much neglected, yet critically important subjects.
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure by Joseph C. Jenkins, 2005: Chelsea Green Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA.16127.
Like many 'services' on Lasqueti, domestic water supply is a do-it-yourself affair for most of us. Typically shunning drilled wells, many households rely on rain-water collection in cisterns, shallow wells, or open ponds to supply water to their homes. Surface and stored water sources can harbour nasty bacteria, viruses, and cysts that may cause waterborne illness, ranging from the unpleasant to the lethal.
I asked Lasquetians how they treated their domestic water… this is what I found.
(** Caveat emptor: this article makes no recommendation and should not be interpreted as advice.)
There are a wide range of water purification technologies in use on Lasqueti, but the constraints of this lifestyle appear to favour water filtration systems. A variety of different filtration systems in use on Lasqueti are documented below, but one strategy common to many systems is “multi-stage filtration”.
A typical multi-stage filtration system might have these components:
This is where the bulk of my research was focussed. Below I document the pro’s and con’s for 4 systems in common use on Lasqueti.
The best of these filter to 0.5 microns, which is sufficient to filter out small cysts (like cryptosporidium), but this not true for all carbon block filters. Carbon filters tend inhibit growth of bacterial inside the filter medium, and with a pre-filter, these filters can last up to a year without maintenance.
This was the system I received the most feedback about, all of it positive. This system uses a 3-stage filter - activated carbon block to remove sediment & odour; 0.3 micron ceramic to trap the nasties; with an activated carbon core, presumably to retard growth of bacteria in the ceramic filter media and ‘sweeten’ the water.
These systems are also typically multi-stage, with 2 or more pre-filters, a reverse osmosis membrane, and typically a post carbon block filter, presumably to ‘sweeten’ the water. These systems may be impractical for many because they require substantial pressure (> 40 psi), and only utilize 25% of water (i.e., they produce 3 litres of ’waste water’ for every 1 litre of purified water, although that waste water can be re-captured and used for watering, etc.).
Finally, I received a recommendation for an online water purification business that sells variations on many of the above and more. For posterity: https://www.watercheck.biz/products
** Caveat emptor:
This article in no way should be seen to be recommending a specific system or advising on adequate sanitation for drinking water — it is intended only to document the current state of water purification technology, as applied on Lasqueti.
Ideally, all your domestic water would be purified to NSF Drinking Water Treatment Standards. For most, a lack of reliable power, water pressure, and/or infrastructure makes that impractical. This article simply documents some of the strategies employed to cope with this reality, while meeting daily needs for a domestic water supply.
"Accidental Eden; Hippie Days on Lasqueti Island"
by Douglas Hamilton and Darlene Olesko
Lasqueti in the 1970's; the "back to the land" spirit, personal accounts, our "off the grid" activism, curious characters that passed through, and much more.
Wonderful photos throughout. Signed copies are available on-island through the authors. Contact Doug (333-8820) or Darzo (333-8819) to purchase.
Stories of the back to the earth movement of the 1970's and 80's covering 5 years in Southern Oregon and 10 years on Lasqueti Island.
One of these stories appears in the Lasqueti memoir of the time, "Accidental Eden".
Hippie Tales is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local book stores..
By Buckwheat Bob Harrison
bobharrison [at] mindspring [dot] com
And a gaggle of free-roaming children.
A herd of free-roaming sheep.
A band of free-roaming musicians.
A spade of free-roaming gardeners.
A palette of free-roaming artists.
A basket of free-roaming weavers.
And tinkerers of all sorts coming out of the woodwork.
Viral videos of all the above to appear soon on your facebook feed.
* Due to an overwhelming number of inquiries about a viral video featuring a pack of 40 St. Bernards roaming the woods, I've decided to completely muddy the waters. Remember -- if you saw it on the Internet, it must be true.
For any true emergency:
Ambulance/First Responders/Medivac - 250-248-3511 1 ( Emergencies Only )
To Report a Fire - 250-954-4432 2 ( Emergencies Only )
Fire Chief, Richard Carlson 250-240-4126 (for other inquiries)
Poison Control - 1-800-567-8911
Police/RCMP - 250-248-6111
Help Line for Children - 1-800-668-6868
Help Line for Parents - 1-888-567-8911
1 Report details to BC Ambulance, with your name and phone number.
Wait by your phone. Local First Responders will call you back for additional info.
**Please do not call this number when seeking non-emergency information.**
2 You will hear a message machine; wait for the beep, then key in the phone number you are calling from, followed by "555".
If it is safe to do so, wait by the phone. Local Fire Department will call you back.
**Please do not call this number when seeking non-emergency information.**
Fire Danger Rating
The ferry runs from French Creek Harbour on Vancouver Island to False Bay on Lasqueti Island. Pay parking is available at the marina. The trip takes from 50 minutes to over an hour (in rough waters). Passengers and freight only - no cars!
Baggage & Freight
Personal baggage limits of 100lbs or 5 cubic ft. may include groceries, feed, or seed, but not hardware items such as chainsaws, etc. No dangerous cargo is permitted.
Freight capacity is limited.All freight and excess personal baggage must be approved by the crew prior to loading. Maximum freight length cannot exceed 14'6".
Freight traveling unattended must display owner's name - unidentified freight will not be carried. Unattended freight must be paid in advance or upon delivery.
Please check westernpacificmarine.com for freight rates. For bulk or heavy items, see Freight & Barges).
On the days of anticipated heavy loads, boarding passes will be hung on the posts at each terminal. Passengers must be on board ship 15 minutes prior to sailing to ensure passage (even with a boarding pass).
If 10 or more passengers are left on the last sailing of the day, from either terminal, an extra run will be made. Passengers may be required to prepay their fare, which is non-refundable.
The Centurion VII is a passenger-only ferry that can hold 60 passengers. Transport Canada certified, 75 gross tons. Built in 1985.
The Centurion VII in dry dock for R&R, March 2008
Peering into Lasqueti's Past
The archaeological record of Lasqueti, like that of many of the Gulf Islands, bears witness to the island’s rich indigenous heritage. And, consistent with other island communities, Lasquetians feel a deep connection to their island and its history. These web pages are designed both to pay tribute to our island’s ancient heritage and to protect this heritage through education.
What kinds of archaeological sites are on Lasqueti and where are they?
Living on an island means, by definition, that many people will have homes on or near the water. People today choose these places so they can easily access the ocean, which in turn offers transportation and communication routes, sustenance, and, of course, beauty. Ancient people chose to put their homes in the same spots for many of the same reasons.
Our archaeological surveys of the island and perusal of private artifact collections tell us that First Nations used much of the island in the past. Large sites representing permanent settlements are located in almost every bay on Lasqueti These sites are composed of large amounts of mollusk shells and minor amounts of other remains (animal bones, artifacts). In many cases, ancient people created expansive flat, house platforms on otherwise rocky, unlivable surfaces by bringing countless basket-loads of shell from the beach. If these were properly excavated, we would find the remains of 1000s of years of super-imposed floors of longhouses (with hearths, post holes, storage pits, etc.) on top of these constructed platforms. Based on artifact styles, these longhouse villages date sometime within the last 2000-3000 years.
In association with some of the larger seaside settlements on Lasqueti are fish traps where the ancient Lasquetians trapped and sometimes stored the abundant fish of Georgia Strait. Such ancient extraction and management techniques allowed for the relatively high density of ancient settlements on the island. Click here for more information on one Lasqueti fish trap and to view photos.
Indigenous peoples used the inland areas of Lasqueti in two ways. Based on the artifacts people find in their gardens, we can tell that people hunted deer and gathered berries throughout the island’s interior. The form of some of the projectile points suggests people have been camping in Lasqueti’s inland since 6000-8000 years ago.
The second use of the inland was as a retreat during times of conflict. These refuge sites are recognizable by shell located a considerable distance inland and up slope from some of the larger settlements. Such sites are usually on promontories with good visibility out to sea, but as much as 40m above the ocean. Based on archaeological work elsewhere in the northern Gulf Islands, such sites date to the last 1000 years or so.
To find out more about the island and the region’s rich past, read these articles from the Isle & Times about the archaeology of herring and obsidian or go to this web site http://www.sliammonfirstnation.com/archaeology/
The status of Lasqueti’s archaeological heritage
Despite the fact that Lasquetians generally have a strong connection to and respect for our island, we are doing a poor job of protecting our collective archaeological heritage. Not surprisingly, many of the island’s coastal sites were destroyed in the mid 20th century as a result of logging, other development, and early settlements. Since that time, however, with easier access to bulldozers and backhoes, and increasing demand for waterfront property, the rate of archaeological site destruction on Lasqueti has increased greatly. Unless we make a concerted effort as a community to slow down the destruction of sites, the record of Lasqueti’s deep history will be lost forever.
To find out more about the laws that protect Lasqueti’s archaeological sites and your rights and responsibilities if you have an archaeological site on your property, read these two Isle & Times articles from 2002 and 2005.
|Our Collective Heritage (pdf)||69.69 KB|
|Call before you dig (pdf)||83.4 KB|
|Care and tending (pdf)||65.26 KB|
|Herring and archaeology (pdf)||64.91 KB|
|Marshall fish trap (pdf)||272.66 KB|
|Obsidian (volcanic glass) (pdf)||79.8 KB|
People often tell me that they’ve seen shells or blue ocean clays in unlikely places on Lasqueti – well inland and at much higher elevations than current sea levels. These deposits are remnants of higher ocean levels at the end of the last Ice Age and can be used to figure out where Lasqueti’s shoreline was in the ancient past. Since Northwest Coast peoples usually settled along the shore, understanding ancient sea levels can in turn help us find the archaeological sites associated with Lasqueti’s earlier occupants.
In the past 15 years, archaeologists, working with various other “paleo-scientists” have learned a lot about ancient sea levels on the BC coast. For a long while, scientists thought about sea level using a very basic equation: during the Ice Age, when much of the ocean’s water was tied up in ice, sea levels at the global scale were lower than today. More recently, however, advances in a range of analytical techniques have made it possible for scientists to reconstruct detailed, local sea level histories. This is especially important in British Columbia where sea level history is vastly different from region to region. For instance, the sea level histories of the lower Fraser Valley or the west coast of Vancouver Island are quite different from the one early Lasquetians experienced.
Several factors cause sea level history to vary from one area to another. In the case of Lasqueti, among the most important factor was the enormous weight of the ice that covered the Island during the end of the last Ice Age (the Pleistocene), some 14,000 years ago. At that time there was a sheet of snow and ice several hundreds of meters thick that covered most of mainland BC and extended to just south of Seattle. Because the earth’s crust is flexible, the weight of the ice pushed down the earth’s crust (termed “isostatic depression”) and the relative level of the sea rose. This is despite the fact that a significant amount of the ocean’s water was tied up in that ice. In places that were ice-free south of Seattle, sea level was relatively lower, because there was no depression of the earth’s crust.
When the ice started to melt rapidly after 14,000 years ago, changes in sea level were dramatic. The melting of the ice sheet resulted in the crust immediately (geologically speaking) springing back (termed “isostatic rebound”)—which should result in relative sea level decreasing as the earth’s crust rose. However, at this same time, globally, sea level was rising because of the input of the melting ice into the ocean. The result is that changes in sea level can reflect a complex interaction between local isostatic rebound and global sea level rise.
What does this mean for Lasqueti? Well, thanks to the work of geomorphologist Ian Hutchison and others who visited the island about 10 years ago, and to Wayne Bright for showing me (very) old shells on his property, we have a pretty good idea of the local sea level history of our island. The geomorphologists sampled several lakes on the north end, and obtained radiocarbon dates for the layer of clams (an old beach) on Oben Road (at ~ 56 meters elevation). The attached figures show you what Lasqueti looked like between 14,000 – 13,300 years based on the work of the geomorphologists and a date on one of Wayne’s ancient beach shells.
Before 14,000 years ago, Lasqueti was actually represented by a few islets, with the largest island centered on Mt. Trematon (so, in protecting Mt. Trematon, we actually were conserving Lasqueti’s oceanfront, the ancient core of what is now a larger island!). A deposit of large clam shells found while digging a pond on Teapot House land likely dates to this time when sea level was 150 meters higher than today.
Between 14,000 – 12,500 years ago, the relative sea level around Lasqueti dropped dramatically and quickly, associated with the removal of the ice’s weight and consequent isosatic rebound. One of the shells sitting in the old beach in Wayne’s orchard (~47 meters elev.), dating to ~13,300 years ago, shows just how rapidly sea level dropped: from 150 m above current level to 47 m above the current level in just 700 years (see images below). The shells collected by Ian Hutchison’s team from the ancient beach at Oben Road (~56 meters elevation) were a similar age. By 12,500 years ago, sea level was about where it is today, but it didn’t stay at this level for long.
First Nations oral traditions from throughout the coast recount dramatic changes in sea level that almost certainly refer to these dramatic post-Ice Age changes in the land and sea. For example, the Sto:lo of the Fraser Valley have stories about some of the First Peoples taking refuge in caves or on mountainsides during times of rising water. The places on the landscape today that mark these refuges are about 200 m elevation – that is, just above the high sea level mark. We don’t know when the earliest people settled on Lasqueti, but we do know that people made it to the southern tip of Chile by ~15,000 years ago, and the oldest sites found in BC so far (from Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast) date to ~12,500 years ago; older sites in BC are almost certainly now covered by the ocean.
After 12,500 years ago, the sea level around Lasqueti continued to bounce around until the crust finally settled down. That is, the island’s shore was the same 12,500 years ago as it is today, but then sea level fell to a few meters below current levels and then rose a few meters above the current shore line until at least 5,700 years ago. As a result of this constant movement of the shoreline, finding really old sites on Lasqueti is going to be a challenge, since this rising and falling of sea levels could have easily obliterated lower early coastal sites (much like rising sea levels today will do to many coastal communities). We don’t yet know what happened to sea level in the last 5000 years, but my recent work on Quadra suggests that sea level has been falling there for the least 1500 years. Whether this is true for Lasqueti remains to be seen.
If you want to know more about Lasqueti’s sea level history, here’s the reference to research that resulted from the geomorphologists’ working here. It’s a good article, but some people might find it to be a bit academic.
Hutchinson, I., James, T. S., Clague, J. J., Barrie, J. V. & Conway, K. W. 2004. Reconstruction of late Quaternary sea-level change in southwestern British Columbia from sediments in isolation basins. Boreas 33:183–194.
An archaeologist’s view of False Bay
by Dana Lepofsky
We now know enough about the archaeology of Lasqueti to say confidently that our island, like most Gulf Islands, once supported a large, permanent First Nation population. Based on a few ancient spear points found inland and on high ground, people first visited Lasqueti some 8000 years ago, when Lasqueti was first emerging from the receding post-glacial seas. The diverse types of projectile points found in people’s gardens and on beaches tell us that subsequent use of the island was widespread. A variety of artifacts as well as archaeological sites further indicate that sometime after 2-3000 years ago, large permanent settlements as well as smaller short-term camps were established. Many of these sites were probably occupied until the first small pox epidemic spread throughout the Gulf of Georgia in the late 1780’s when local First Nations populations were decimated.
There is little doubt the settlement in False Bay was one of the largest and most important of the ancient settlements on Lasqueti. Given the huge sheltered bay, the once rich intertidal and marine life, and access to fresh water, this should come as no surprise. Remnants of this once vibrant community are visible throughout the bay from the at least the Blue Roof around to Cocktail Cove and all the way to the Finnerty Islands. Modern houses, workshops and gas pumps have destroyed a large portion of the archaeological remains associated with this large community, but there are still enough remnants to give us a glimpse at this once flourishing settlement.
Walking along the shore of the bay, even where there has been considerable recent moving of rocks and earth, you’ll notice shells and dark earth eroding from the land. While some are the remains of isolated meals of shellfish, the bulk of the shell is probably very old “construction fill”. That is, the ancient Lasquetians used discarded shells to create flat surfaces on which to build their homes. As we all know, “The Rock” isn’t known for either having flat or easily worked terrain. Basket load upon basket load of shell, however, provided a workable, well-drained platform on which large shed roof homes could be built.
The best example of these “house platforms” is on the spit located on the outside of Mud Bay, where it backs onto False Bay (at the end of Pemberton Road). If you go down to the water’s edge, you’ll see that the shell midden on land is a series of flat stepped surfaces. Each one of these large platforms – all created by ancient peoples, once held an ancient house.
I suspect that much of the False Bay midden used to be sculptured in the same way as that at Mud Bay. So, if you’re imagining how False Bay looked in the past, picture the bay ringed by 1 – 3 rows of longhouses oriented parallel to the beach. Also, imagine a much denser settlement than today. Imagine canoes on the beach, smoke from the longhouses, and lots of people working and playing on the beach and on land.
Another indication that False Bay was important to many people is that it appears to have been well defended. Again, if you walk to the end of Pemberton Road, you’ll notice not only the large shell midden below at the beach, but also a midden way above the beach on the point overlooking the bay. Based on the extent and location of this midden, I believe it’s a lookout or a fortification/refuge site where people went during attacks. Such sites are not uncommon in this region. They are located on points of land with good visibility, have the remains of shell that people had to haul a considerable distance up hill, and are often associated with large, permanent settlements that are located in easier to access, but also more vulnerable locations.
An even more impressive fortification site associated with False Bay is one my daughter, Gavia, discovered this summer while we were camping on the Finnerty Islands. The site is located on a small island that is surrounded by about 30m high perpendicular rock faces. On top of the entire island, however, is relatively thick shell midden. The island has no drinking water, and only a very small beach that is exposed only at low tides. A small portion of the beach may have been cleared of its rocks to increase clam habitat, but in general, it’s not an hospitable place to either collect clams or to live. What the island does have, however, is a superb view to the east to the Strait and to Vancouver Island, and a relatively calm and easy route to and from False Bay to the west. The thickness of the midden so high up on this island – thicker than I’ve seen at other fortification sites in this region – suggests that either many people used this site and/or it was used many times over a long period. Regardless, it indicates the importance of the False Bay settlement in the ancient past.
Finally, the extent of the ancient False Bay community is indicated by the extensive evidence of management and use of marine resources. The intensity of use is indicated, of course, by the huge amounts of shell and sea mammal and fish bone that make up the middens of False Bay. The clearing of beaches of rocks, presumably to increase clam productivity, is another indication. And, there is at least one large fish trap on the Finnerty Islands that is, like the defensive site, most likely associated with the ancient False Bay community. The trap is a complex design that incorporates both the natural configuration of the islets, the flow of water, and human-made walls and dams. At one time, there was considerable activity on the now deserted Finnerty Islands.
Beyond these tantalizing and general facts, we know few details about the lives lived in False Bay. A stunning jade (nephrite) chisel found in the bay indicates that at least some of the residents were probably wealthy and well connected to long-distance trade networks (the Fraser Valley). The usual array of projectile points, fish weights, and scrapers has also been found by the current False Bay residents. However, none of these have been found within the layers of an archaeological site, so these isolated artifacts can only tell us a limited story.
Some of the ancient stories of False Bay are still there for the telling. They’re hidden in the undisturbed portions of middens that still remain on the bay. These layers of house floors, cooking hearths, and storage pits are the legacies of thousands of ancient people. However, given the current rate of development in False Bay, none of this rich, 8000 years of history will survive more than a few decades. Is that the kind of legacy the current residents of False Bay want to leave?
As always, I’d love to talk to any islanders about the ancient heritage of Lasqueti. Please contact me at dlepofsk [at] sfu [dot] ca or #8600.
"Call Before You Dig"
Archaeological texts claim that, with the pace of global development, in 50 years there
will be no undisturbed archaeological sites left. While I tell my introductory students
this, I never really believed it applied to us in British Columbia.
After spending the past two years in the Fraser Valley searching out known ancient
village sites, and observing how impacted even the most remote of them are, I realize that
this statistic is very much about our home.
Here on Lasqueti, where we are lucky to have an abundance of archaeological sites, our
heritage record is also threatened. I have seen a variety of sites across the island and
there are none that are not at least somewhat altered by past and current land use. Many
have been largely destroyed. This destruction is on-going at the same exponential rate
that is happening in the rest of B.C. and world-wide. We continue to build on
archaeological sites without trying to minimize the disturbance to the sites -- and some of
us even dig local sites to augment our personal collection of artifacts.
Archaeology sites are more than a collection of artifacts – they are a detailed history of
the lives lived in one spot. The spatial relationship of the artifacts to each other and to
the layers of sediment are an essential part of telling that story. Without these details, the
artifacts become little more than curios – isolated, incomprehensible fragments of a once
I have some suggestions to encourage the preservation of the archaeological heritage on
1. If at all possible, avoid any disturbance to an archaeological site. If a project can be
moved or altered to avoid a site, do so. Perhaps we could train some community
members to recognize different kinds of archaeological sites and form a sort of
community archaeological team that could be called upon for advice.
2. In cases where disturbance to a site is unavoidable, it is important to salvage as much
information from the site as possible. Though it is more problematic, perhaps the
community archaeological team could be trained to do basic archaeological
excavation (including taking appropriate notes). Then, when people want to do a
building project on Lasqueti, they could call the archaeological team in before they
3. Several people have asked me about conducting an archaeological excavation on
Lasqueti, for instance, in the context of my SFU Archaeology field school. I hope to
do this in the next few years—perhaps we could think about excavating parts of
already damaged sites or ones that will be disturbed in the future.
4. I encourage Islanders to call me to see your sites if you are planning to dig/develop in
them. If at all possible, I will try and come by and we can figure out a game plan to
To me, a defining thing about being a Lasquetian is knowing that we are privileged to
live here and that it is our responsibility to look after this magical place. I am eager to
discuss with people about how we might best take care of our archaeological heritage.
Please call or email anytime.
Dana (333-8860, 604 929-6678, dlepofsk [at] sfu [dot] ca)
The Care and Tending of Our Archaeological Heritage
Many people wanted to understand the relationship of native land claims to
archaeological sites on private property, and in particular whether you are liable to have
your land taken away in a claims settlement. In short, the answer is, "No". While First
Nations include both Crown land and private property in their claim areas, they only ask
that Crown land be given back to them; compensation (monetary or otherwise) is sought
in lieu of private land within the claim area. Thus, compensation might be requested by
First Nations for all the privately owned land on Lasqueti, but individual parcels, whether
they have archaeological sites on them or not, are highly unlikely to be singled out for
return to First Nations as part of a claim settlement. As I understand it, there are
currently five First Nations groups that include all or part of Lasqueti in their claim area.
People have also asked me about the legal and ethical aspects of disturbing an
archaeological site. The law is clear: disturbing a site, whether on private or public land,
whether knowingly or not, is against the law—and can result in substantial financial
penalties. However, the enforcement of the law is considerably less clear and in fact, no
one has ever been convicted under the Act. Most archaeologists would say the law is not
intended to apply to casual, minor, disturbance of sites, such as in the course of digging a
garden. It is, however, clearly intended to provide protection to sites being destroyed
during larger-scale development.
Archaeologists are working with policy makers to create legislation that clarifies the
intent of the law, but it’s complicated. For instance, an Islander told me that a few years
back she was working with a company on Vancouver Island that was putting in a
swimming pool for an expensive home. In the course of excavating the pool they
uncovered twelve native burials. A quick decision was made–the one that is usually
made in such cases–to put the bodies in the flowerbeds at the edge of the pool and to keep
the whole thing quiet. What was the owner’s responsibility in this case? Should s/he
have paid the money to for a professional to properly excavate those remains? To me,
the answer is a clear "Yes". But, what if it was someone on Lasqueti who discovered the
burials in the course of putting in a much needed orchard or developing a new garden?
Many people here could not pay for such archaeological work to be done. What is the
landowner’s social responsibility in this case? From the perspective of an archaeologist,
if the landowner cannot afford a proper excavation of such a site, then they should try and
plan the garden or orchard in such a way as to avoid it.
Beyond the simple legalities of the issue, it is important that we understand why we
should protect our archaeological sites from destruction. Archaeological sites are
nonrenewable resources (despite the fact that the Liberal Government just moved the
Archaeology Branch to the Department of Renewable Resources!).
That is, they contain a detailed history of the past that, once disturbed, is gone forever. That
history is represented by the artifacts, bones, and shells that people find, but even more
importantly by their relationships to each other in layers in the ground.
The analogy that I like best is this: an archaeological site is like a book, where the
artifacts and layers are like the words on pages. If the words are ripped from the book
and scattered, they still might be beautiful words, but the story they once told is lost
forever. So too for artifacts that have been removed from a site without recording details
about their context. Was it found in a trash heap and possibly no longer functional? Was
it in a burial and possibly a family heirloom? Was it in a storage pit and intended for
future use? As many people saw that night at the school, for most artifacts, all I could tell
you was its function and roughly (within a thousand years or two) how old it was. The
rest of the story those artifacts could tell has been lost.
In the past few weeks I have been excited by how much of Lasqueti’s archaeological
history is still left—and saddened by how much has been lost. Both older and more
recent logging has disturbed many sites, and roads have cut through sites. I have heard
stories of tourists coming to the island and taking artifacts away. I know of at least two
extensive collections of artifacts gathered by former Lasqueti residents that have now
been lost. Such things happen all the time. The question is, as a community, what can
we do to preserve the precious sites that have large portions still intact?
There are several things I think we could be doing. First, when planning on building a
house or garden in an area with an archaeological site, choose a location that will have
the least impact on the site. If you do find artifacts while building or gardening, then put
them in a bag in your house with as many details as possible about where they were
found (the depth below surface, which portion of which garden, whether there was
charcoal, shell, etc. with it). What you swear you won’t forget now, I promise will
become blurred in several years unless you write it down—and it may be someone else,
not you, who is trying to recreate the context for those artifacts. The same applies to an
artifact you find on the beach. Most of these likely eroded out from a site on the shore,
and thus have lost much of their archaeological meaning, but it is still important to record
from where on the beach an artifact was collected. I guarantee, as archaeological sites
become rarer on the planet (like all non-renewable resources), this information will
become increasingly important. On Lasqueti, we have been granted the stewardship of
many resources that are in short supply elsewhere, a
Herring and Archaeology?
With so many environmental disasters facing us these days, sometimes it’s hard to
know where to put our energy to try to "make things right". For me, I am sometimes
consumed by sadness about the world’s loss of cultural and biological diversity. Because
I work closely with First Nations communities, often in remote places, I am daily faced
with how inter-twined and how significant these losses are.
In my current archaeological research, I am trying to actively blend my
commitment to the preservation of heritage with conservation of the natural world. In
particular, I am interested in incorporating archaeological evidence of resource use and
management with indigenous and local ecological knowledge, as a framework for
managing our resources today. These interests have recently converged in a study on
herring with Tla’amin First Nation, on the Sunshine Coast.
Herring, a once abundant and important component of our coastal ecosystems, is
severely threatened. In British Columbia, three of the five "management units’ are now
closed to fishing. Most Tla’amin and other coastal First Nations say that herring runs are
too small to make it worthwhile to fish or collect spawn. They attribute this dramatic
decline to over-fishing by seine boats in the 1980’s, when there were so many boats in
Tla’amin territory that "you could easily walk from boat to boat".
The past ecological and cultural importance of herring is echoed in the region’s
archaeological records, which indicate that in places like the Georgia Strait and the west
coast of Vancouver Island it was herring – not the now more popular salmon – that was
the primary food species. For many indigenous people, herring undoubtedly classifies as
a "cultural keystone species", because of its fundamental cultural importance.
Photographs, interviews, and oral traditions demonstrate that for generations, tons of
herring roe and the fish themselves were gathered each spring and dried in abundance to
be used throughout the year. Such abundance is also reflected throughout the coast by
place names such as "Tee Sho Shum" for the main Reserve of the Tla’amin First Nation,
meaning, "Milky waters from herring spawn".
Importantly, these white waters were the ecological signal that it was time to fish.
Modern fishing practices involve harvesting pre-spawn fish at sea for roe which is
exported overseas as a delicacy. At best, the male fish and the gutted females are ground
into meal. In contrast, indigenous fishers gathered herring in the spring in bays after
spawning. And although the roe was also collected and consumed, it was a fraction of
the spawn that was deposited. At Tla’amin, community members are frustrated and
insulted by the insistence of government fisheries managers that there was no long-term,
sustained herring fishery in their bays. This flies in the face of local knowledge, place
names, and preliminary archaeological work conducted by our team– all of which point
to the long-term cultural importance of reliable and abundant herring stocks.
In our current research, we’re bringing together fisheries ecologists, archaeologists
and Tla’amin researchers to systematically study the past abundance and diversity of
herring on the Sunshine Coast, and the long-term use and management of this important
resource. We’re mapping herring fish traps, digging cores in archaeological sites to
determine past abundance of herring, and extracting DNA from these herring bones to
determine genetic diversity of herring over time and space. Given the dramatic reduction
of herring today, and the reluctance on the part of Dept. of Fisheries to seriously engage
in management which supports herring abundance and diversity, the only way to begin to
document the spatial and temporal variability of herring is by combining indigenous
knowledge and archaeological data. Our goal is to present these data to Provincial and
Tla’amin fisheries managers with the hopes of improving future management of this
ecologically and culturally foundational species. It’s now or never. Now is good.
More on our archaeological heritage
Since writing my last piece in the Isle and Times, I’ve had several conversations with Islanders about archaeology. Two kinds of questions arose in these discussions: People asked “If I bring attention to the archaeological site on my property, will it mean my land will get taken away in land claims?” and, “What can we, as a community do to preserve our archaeological heritage?” I’ll address both of these here.
Land Claims and Archaeology
Many people across British Columbia are fearful that revealing archaeological sites on their property will result in their land being taken away. However, this fear is generally unfounded. First, it’s important to understand that many of the sites in British Columbia, and certainly most of the sites on Lasqueti are already known both to government archaeologists and First Nations. This is especially true for those sites along the coast line. Recorded sites are listed in a Provincial data base with formal site numbers attached to them. Thus, you don’t need to worry about “bringing attention” to your site, since it likely is already part of public knowledge.
However, even though the locations of sites are generally known, sites on private land play only a minor role in First Nations land claims. First Nations include both Crown land and private property in their claim areas, but only ask that Crown land be given back to them. Compensation (monetary or otherwise) is sought in lieu of private land within the claim area. There is no legal precedent supporting the return of private land in land claims.
Further, archaeology, more generally, has played only a minor role in land claims. There are two primary reasons for this. First, since it has already been established in the courts that First Nations have been in British Columbia since “time immemorial”, archaeology isn’t needed to show this. The second reason relates to how difficult it is to figure out “ethnicity” from the archaeological record. Although often asked, archaeologists can rarely determine “who lived here”. That is, I can not tell from the style of a projectile point whether it was made by someone from what is now the Sechelt or Nanoose First Nations. There generally just isn’t enough variation in artifacts across the region to determine “who”.
To my knowledge, three First Nations claim Lasqueti within their “core area”. They are the Tla’Amin (Sliammon), Nanoose, and Qualicum. The core claim areas of the Sechelt and the Comox just skirt around Lasqueti.
What can we do?
The first and most important step towards preserving our archaeological heritage is for us to decide that this is something that is important. Once we truly decide this, the rest is relatively easy.
As I wrote last time, the best thing is to avoid any impact to archaeological sites, but this may not always be possible. So, if you can’t move your project to a different location, consider ways to minimize impact. For instance, instead of leveling a building site by digging, bring in fill and put it on top of the archaeological deposits. Then the archaeological deposits are covered and protected.
When destruction can’t be avoided, have an archaeologist excavate at least some of the site that is going to be disturbed and destroyed. (Remember from our past discussions that we can only reconstruct the history of a site if the artifacts and features are observed in their original archaeological context.) While an archaeological excavation can normally be a somewhat expensive process, I am hoping to train a “community archaeological team” to do basic archaeological excavation and note-taking on a volunteer basis. Initially, at least, this should be under my direction. I am working towards getting the appropriate archaeology permits (required by law) to make this possible. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this.
In the meantime, if you have an interest in being part of our “Lasqueti archaeology team”, or have any questions about archaeology, please contact me.
Dana (333-8600, 604 929-6678, dlepofsk [at] sfu [dot] ca)
Obsidian (Volcanic Glass) and Ancient Trade Relations on Lasqueti
A while back I asked Lasquetians to share with me any ancient artifacts collected
from Lasqueti that were made of obsidian (volcanic glass). This is part of a larger study
on ancient trade relations that I am conducting on the Sunshine Coast. Four people
responded to my call. Two of the artifacts were probably not originally from Lasqueti
(i.e., they were collected on someone’s holiday in Mexico), but ended up in people’s
Lasqueti collection. The other two were in deed from Lasqueti archaeology sites. These
two, in combination with several artifacts from the Sunshine Coast, give us some insights
into ancient social relations within and between communities in this region.
Why study obsidian artifacts?
Archaeologists have two means for studying ancient social relations. The first is
by looking for similarities in the form of artifacts (projectile points, baskets, house
styles). This research is based on the assumption that shared styles indicate shared ideas
and thus communication. Another way to understand past social and economic relations
is to track down the origin of the raw materials used to make the artifacts recovered in
Obsidian, formed by the rapid cooling of volcanic magma, is ideally suited for
this second method. This is because the magma associated with each volcanic eruption is
composed of a distinct combination of minerals. Once "we" figure out the distinct
combination of each eruption and each volcano, it is possible to compare the make up of
the artifacts we find archaeologically to this information.
There are several reasons why obsidian is a good material for tracking social
relations. First, it is a highly valued raw material for artifacts because of its fine
crystalline structure. It’s fine structure means both that it fractures predictably during
tool-making and it will produce a razor sharp edge. But, what ultimately makes obsidian
so well suited for tracking social relations is that this material is in short supply in most
parts of British Columbia. Thus, in order to get obsidian, people would have either 1.
lived close to the source, or 2. had social (kin?) or economic relations with the people
who did live close to the source.
Where do obsidian artifacts in the Sunshine Coast region come from?
Based on just 19 obsidian artifacts, we are beginning to get a picture of ancient
trade relations in this region in the last 2000 years or so. In general, obsidian in this
region comes from four sources. From north to south, these are 1. Kingcome Inlet in
central B.C, 2. Mt. Garibaldi in Squamish, 3. Whitewater Ridge, in central Oregon, and
4. Gregory Creek, just east of Whitewater Ridge, Oregon.
Both the Kingcome Inlet and Garibaldi obsidian are of only moderately good
quality. This is because they have some larger crystals in the rock that makes the
obsidian fracture less predictably during tool manufacture. Thus, all things being equal,
neither of these sources should have been preferred by ancient people. That is, unless
these sources were the only ones that were socially and/or economically available to
them. Today, the Kingcome source is well within the territory of Kwakwakwakw First
Nations, and Mt. Garibaldi is within Squamish First Nations territory.
What does all this tell us about social relations in the past?
In general, there are clear differences in the origin of the obsidian artifacts found
in this region. Obsidian from Lasqueti and sites south of Powell River on the Sunshine
Coast come from central Oregon and Mt. Garibaldi (Squamish). This suggests that the
people who lived on Lasqueti and nearby settlements were more closely affiliated with
folks further south than to the north. This pattern roughly fits with the social-linguistic
break between the Tla’amin and Sechelt First Nations today.
Moving northward, the pattern changes. At Powell River sites we have both
Garibaldi obsidian, but also the Kingcome Inlet source. Further north still, north of
Powell River and into Desolation Sound, there is a clear preference for Kingcome
obsidian. The relative abundance of Kingcome artifacts in the northern sites, and the mix
of Kingcome and Garibaldi sources in the Powell River sites, suggests that there is a shift
in trade (and kin?) connections somewhere around what is now Powell River. That is, it
seems that people living north of Powell River looked more northerly for their
social/economic relations, while the folks to the south of Powell River were more
connected to the people further south.
Of course, as we figure out the source of more obsidian artifacts found while
excavating, or in people’s personal artifact collections, we will be able to fine-tune our
story. In particular, I am curious how this pattern changes over time. For instance, at
about 2000 years ago, large villages are established on Lasqueti and elsewhere in this
region, which undoubtedly changed how people interacted. Then, about 1000 years ago,
we start to see "defensive sites" on Lasqueti and elsewhere in the region. As we well
know from modern times, conflict can result in dramatically altered trade relations and
the same was undoubtedly true in the past.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions/ideas/comments about Lasqueti’s
archaeological heritage. dlepofsk [at] sfu [dot] ca
Lasqueti is quite sparsely populated and lies in a rare ecosystem type - the Coastal Douglas Fir zone. Our famous herds of feral sheep, along with the unique history of settlement have resulted in an ecology and natural environment with its own character.
Many, professional and ametuer, have taken a keen interest in Lasqueti's Ecology, it's Natural Environment, its Flora and Fauna, its Ecosystems - in short, its Natural History. But not much of this wealth of information has made it on the site yet - what has, you'll find here. If you have something to contribute in this regard, Contact us.
Not every plant sold in a nursery makes a good choice for your garden or landscape. Some non-native plants find wild success in Lasqueti's climate and soils - so much so that they can spread uncontrollably, pushing out more sensitive species. Many of the following are mentioned at www.bcinvasives.ca as being invasive plants in BC. If you know of others, contact Terry at 8501. I am slowing working on this project , so forgive the incomplete information.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Description||Possible Alternatives||Photo|
|Bohemian Knotweed||Fallopia. x bohemica||Lush, bamboo-like with pretty feathery white flowers. 2-5m high. Among the most difficult plants to eradicate.||
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).
False Soloman's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Bugbane (Actaea ramosa and A. simplex).
|Butterfly Bush||Buddleja davidii||Hardy deciduous semi-evergreen shrub 4-5m tall||Red-flowering Current (Ribes sangunieum). California Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus). Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor).|
|Common Periwinkle||Vinca minor||Forms dense mats & invades wet areas. Vinca major is less problematic .||Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum). Piggyback Plant (Tolmeia menziesii). Christmas Box (Sarcococca hookeriana).|
|English Holly||Ilex aquifolium||Large bush or small tree - spread by birds. Casts deep shade that deprives native plants of light, nutrients & water.||Holly-leaf Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus). Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). San Jose Holly (Ilex x aquipernyi).|
|English Ivy||Hedera hiburnica||Thick mats overwhelm plants on the forest floor and, smother trees.||
Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant).
Salal (Gaultheria shallon). Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.).
|Giant Hogweed||Heracleum mantegazzianum||Stout, bright green tsem spotted with dark red.Small white flower clusters. Grows more than 2m. high. Sap causes blistering & scarring.||
Blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea).
Wild celery (Angelica archangelica).
|Giant Knotweed||Fallopia sachalenensis||Lush, bamboo-like with pretty feathery white flowers. 2-5m high. Among the most difficult plants to eradicate.||
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).
False Soloman's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Bugbane (Actaea ramosa and A. simplex).
|Himalayan Blackberry||Rubus armeniacus|
|Polygonum polystachyum||Lush, bamboo-like with pretty feathery white flowers. 2-5m high. Among the most difficult plants to eradicate.||
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).
False Soloman's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Bugbane (Actaea ramosa and A. simplex).
|Japanese Knotweed||Falliopa japonica||
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).
False Soloman's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Bugbane (Actaea ramosa and A. simplex)
|Policemen’s Helmet||Impatiens glandulifera||Grows 1-2m high with a soft green or red-tinged stem.Pink flower. Crushed foliage has a musty smell.||
Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa).
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium).
Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera).
|Purple Loosestrife||Lythrum salicaria|
|Scotch Broom||Cytisus scoparius||Spanish Broom|
|Sweet Cicely||Myrrhis odorata||
Edible herb with anise flavour / smell.
Very hard to eradicate - deep roots re-grow from small fragments.
(see Wikipedia entry...)
|Spurge Laurel (or daphne laurel, laurel-leaved daphne, olive-spurge, wood laurel, copse laurel)||Daphne laureola||
European flowering shrub.
Spread rapidly by seed and root sucker.
Poisonous and gloves must be worn when hand pulling to protect against the caustic sap.
(see Wikipedia entry... )
|Yellow Archangel/Lamium||Lamium galeobdolon|
|Yellow Flag Iris||Iris pseudacorus|
This site is for butterflies that have been seen and identified on Lasqueti Island.Over several years I have sent photos or butterflies I've found dead to Cris Guppy, the author of Butterflies of British Columbia, for positive ID and for his record keeping. Many thanks to Cris for his help and encouragement.
The information and photos are intended to help anyone who wants to get to know these local residents better and to appreciate their grace and beauty. They have truly marvelous lives and life cycles.
If there is no photo credit, I took the picture on Lasqueti. Otherwise, the photographers are credited, and the photos are used with permission.
BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION: The biggest threat to butterflies is habitat loss: to urban development (pavement, manicured lawns), intensive agriculture, logging (for a few species), and overgrazing by cattle and sheep. On Lasqueti we can encourage and preserve natural areas -- especially forests, sheltered forest glades, wet places and streams, brushy areas, and patches of nettles, willow, and alder, which are the host plants for many local butterfly species.
It is also important to avoid completely the use of herbicides and pesticides, including and especially Bt, which is widely sold as a mild way to control some pests but which is deadly to the larvae of all butterflies and moths.
If you do want to plant a butterfly garden, be sure the seeds you are sowing are for the butterflies that are or could be here. Most seed mixes sold for this purpose are primarily for the butterflies in other geographic areas. I have found that a general mix of flowering herbs, shrubs, annuals, and perennials seems to attract a lot. Host plants for the larvae are at least as important for species survival as nectar-producing flowers. Butterfly gardens are more for our pleasure at seeing the adults (I have seen 25 Painted Ladies at once on Lasqueti, in a large planting of lavender.).
Raising purchased butterfly larvae, or releasing butterflies at a wedding or other event, is not a good idea, as it puts non-native butterflies, or non-resident populations, into an area -- the same as Atlantic salmon escaping from fish farms into Pacific waters.
Moths and butterflies are categories of the insect order Lepidoptera, which comprises possibly a million species. Generally, butterfly antennae are thread-like, with a small club at the end. Moth antennae usually lack clubs and resemble either threads or feathers.
NO ROYALTY ON LASQUETI! People will sometimes refer to the "Monarchs" on Lasqueti, mistaking the two species of Swallowtail butterflies that are here for the famous and widely pictured Monarch butterfly. Swallowtails are white or yellow with broad black tiger stripes. Monarchs are orange, with thin black lines in a stained-glass pattern, not stripes. While it would be lovely to see these master-migrators on Lasqueti, they have only rarely been recorded anywhere on the coast. Their primary range is to the east or the south of us.
WATCHING BUTTERFLIES: Mostly, to watch butterflies, you just have to go to a likely habitat, in season, after the day's sun has warmed things a bit, and sit and be patient. You will notice many as you walk on the roads or woodland edges or in fields, or as you garden. A pair of close-focus binoculars is a wonderful tool for butterfly-watching. A few years ago these were out-of-reach expensive, but they are now being made for the popular market. If you are shopping for binoculars, be sure to check the focus range. If the smaller number is 2 metres or less, you're OK for butterflies.
I have seen butterflies in the usual haunts in and out of the garden, and also crossing bays and between islands. Since they sip water and minerals from various places, they may also be on beaches and tideflats, on piles of old seaweed, and on mud and animal dung. (Note: A greenhouse with the doors open can be a great butterfly-catcher, but if your greenhouse is trapping them, it is essential to check a couple of times a day and catch and free them. Gentle handling is fine, just be sure not to squeeze the body. We were catching so many, and not always finding them in time, that we now net the doorways.)
The more you observe, the more you'll see: courtship, mating, egg-laying, larvae, and pupae, as well as the beauty of the adults. If you notice an adult flying around host plants, some time spent watching could reward you with the sight of egg-laying, and then you will know exactly where to look later for larvae and pupae.
To learn more, in addition to watching, take a look at these books and websites:
Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard. UBC Press, 2001. A big, definitive book.
The Butterflies of Cascadia, by Robert Michael Pyle. Seattle Audubon Society, 2002. A useful field guide to the butterflies of Washington, Oregon, and southern BC. Great photos, lively writing.
http://efauna.bc.ca Photos and extensive information about all types of animals in BC. Complete and easy to use. (There is a comparable eflora site for BC plants.)
www.butterfliesandmoths.org One of those US sites that define "North America" as stopping at the 49th parallel, but there are no butterflies in southern BC that do not also occur in northern Washington. Good photos.
Food self-sufficiency -- Eating well out of your Garden -- Tips on Local Gardening
These articles, arranged by month, are intended to pass on information to help us become more food self-sufficient by eating well out of the garden all year round. I will include tips I've picked up from my own and friends' experience, plus information I've run across that I haven't seen elsewhere. I don't plan to include info that is widely available in garden books and articles, such as how to grow squash or potatoes or other crops that are harvested in Fall and stored.
"Winter gardening" is really spring and summer planting for winter eating. It requires planning to be sure there is a place in the garden for the overwintering crops to go in at the right time. For example, when you plan where you'll plant carrots, allow space for spring planting of the summer carrots and also summer planting of the carrots that will be left in the ground and harvested through the winter and into spring. A bed that had the earliest peas and lettuces will be finished in time for the overwintered cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower. I reserve a spot from the beginning of the season for kale and chard, which need to be seeded in the garden before any of the early crops are finished.
A good source of information is Linda Gilkeson's articles about winter gardening on the coast, which can be found at
Linda also has an excellent book, Year-Around Harvest, which can be ordered from West Coast Seeds, Salt Spring Seeds, at local bookstores, or through her website, www.lindagilkeson.ca
Another recommended book is Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest, available at the regional library (www.virl.bc.ca)
Here is a table of what to plant when on Lasqueti (adapted from Linda Gilkeson's "Salt Spring Planting Dates" in her book Year Round Harvest)
WHAT TO PLANT
Feb. or March
Celeriac, parsley, leeks, chard
Brussels sprouts, carrots
Mid- to late June
Purple sprouting broccoli, winter & over-wintering cabbage, parsnips, beets
Rutabagas, endive & radicchio, kale, kohlrabi, overtintered cauliflower
Late July-early August
Arugula, fall & winter lettuce, mizuna and other Asian greens, collards, kale, daikon and winter radishes, spinach, corn salad, basil (for transplanting to pots for a windowsill indoors in early fall)
Late August to mid-September
Corn salad, cilantro, arugula, winter lettuce
Lettuce and spinach in greenhouse
This week's article from Linda Gilkeson's email list is about hardening off seedlings. You can get on this list by emailing Linda at info [at] lindagilkeson [dot] ca. She lives on Salt Spring, so her tips are directly useful for us. You can read all her past articles at the link she cites below.
How you harden off tender seedlings can have a long term effect on the crop. Hardening off is the process of reducing the growth rate of seedlings by exposing them to cooler conditions and less water and fertilizer. As their growth is checked, plants accumulate food reserves, which they can use to produce new roots faster when they are transplanted. Hardening off also thickens the cuticle and wax layers on leaves, which helps plants to withstand wind and weather and protects leaves from sunburn.
Some plants can be hardened off to withstand frost, including the cabbage family, lettuce, most greens and onions. If transplants plants are too large, however, exposure to temperatures under 5-10oC for more than a couple of weeks can make some of them send up seedstalks.
The tricky thing is that there is a disadvantage to over-hardening plants. Such plant are slow to begin growth and may never really recover, resulting in lower yields and later maturing crops. Transplants suffering from uneven watering, from being rootbound or chilled become over-hardened. Plants for sale have usually been hardened off by the time they reach the market so they become over-hardened if they hang around too long before they are set out. [Find out when your local nursery brings in new stock, buy your transplants the day they arrive and plant them out immediately or else pot them on]. Home grown seedlings that were started too early suffer the same fate if they end up being held too long in small pots.
Hardening off is least helpful for tender plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, melons, squash, and celery. Ideally, you want to time the seeding date for these so that transplants reach the right size to go into the garden just as the weather becomes warm and stable (good luck with that!). Such tender plants are better off being started later rather than earlier so they don’t experience a check in their growth. In any case, if seedlings are becoming rootbound and the weather still isn’t warm enough to put them out, they should be potted in larger containers and kept in.
Hardening off for tender crops mainly means getting them used to direct sunshine. Tender plants that have been started under glass can be seriously damaged or even die from sunburn if suddenly moved outdoors (really!). Sunburn damage on cucumbers and squash (the most susceptible group) appears as light tan spots and blotches on leaves and stems.
What to do: Gently harden off transplants you have grown by gradually exposing them to direct sun and outdoor conditions. Starting with an hour or so the first day, set them out for a longer period each day, taking about a week to get them used to a whole day outdoors. Move them indoors if nights are cooler than normal. Once they are set out, keep sheets of plastic, floating row cover, cloches or other covers handy to protect transplants from an late cool spell.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH: It's not too late to plant leeks, for harvest through the winter and into next May. Parsley planted now will last over the winter in the garden, barring three weeks under heavy snow (and even then it did come back from the roots) And it's not too late to start celeriac indoors, for transplanting into the garden when it's truly warm later in the month. It will last through next April.
This week: last chance to plant beets, carrots, and rutabagas for late fall/winter harvest. If it's hot, a cover of burlap or newspaper will help keep the seedbed moist until the seeds sprout (Remove this as soon as they have sprouted).
This is also the time to plant seeds for overwintered cauliflower, to be harvested next spring. If you didn't get seeds for this crop this year, make a mental note to get them when you order seeds next winter. It's the sweetest cauliflower you will ever taste, and great to have at that time of year.
Look for and prepare a place where you will be able to sow hardy greens in a couple of weeks-- chard, kale, arugula, spinach, Chinese cabbage and other Asian greens.
The arrival of August shift us into the next phase of planting for winter eating. August 1st is the halfway point between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox-- Lammas, in the Celtic and old British calendars, a harvest festival in which bread baked from the first wheat harvest of the year was blessed. Bread blessings sound good to me! The shortening of the days means that seed can be sown for overwintered onions (Onions are sensitive to day-length and might bolt to seed too early if planted sooner). Walla Walla is the main variety grown in this area-- a large, delicious onion that will be ready for harvest around July 1st next year (OK, it's not exactly winter eating, but it does fill the gap left by the last of the stored onions, before next year's crop will be ready). Seed a few rows in any spot in the garden, cover with a little protection against the worst winter weather, then transplant next spring into that year's onion area.
You can sow all the Asian greens now for fall harvest, plus fall and winter lettuces, arugula, kale, winter radishes, spinach, scallions and corn salad. Corn salad, also known as mache ("mosh"), is especially hardy, and works well as a cover crop as other things get harvested.
Tips for seedling survival in hot weather: If your soil dries especially quickly, so that daily watering is not enough to germinate seeds, try covering the seeded area with cloth or a couple of layers of newspaper. Check each day and remove as soon as the seeds have sprouted. After this, to shelter the babies from too much sun, I've been using upturned bedding plant trays, those lattice-work black or grey plastic trays that a dozen or so small pots come in from nurseries. They let in about 50% of the light. They turn up at the Free Store, or maybe a neighbour has a few spares, if you don't have any. Shade cloth would work, too.
The best time to plant for fall and winter eating may have just passed, but if you haven't been able to do it yet I'd suggest going out there right now and sowing some lettuce, arugula, spinach and corn salad, especially if you have room in the greenhouse or a cold frame or any other place you could shelter after the weather turns. It is probably not too late to plant cilantro, which is surprisingly hardy-- one Lasqueti gardener had hers survive outside last winter, with no protection, through all that snow and cold. If you can get transplants from a neighbour, or find plants for kale, Asian greens, or lettuce at a nursery, that would put you a couple of weeks ahead of direct seeding.
Through early October you can sow lettuce, spinach, arugula, and Asian greens, under a cold frame or in a greenhouse, that will germinate and stay small through the winter and begin to grow quickly when the days lengthen in February, giving you salads in the early spring, before you need the greenhouse for tomatoes etc. Whatever you do, be sure to get cover crops on the bare patches in the garden as they appear after harvest. If you are able to do only one thing for your next year's garden, this is the best. Make a note of the fall and winter crops you wish you'd gotten seed for this year, for next year's seed ordering. The whole schedule of what to plant when is on the main page of the Zero Mile Diet site.
Lasqueti HAS a history....
There is evidence of human habitation stretching back thousands of years - fortunately, we have a resident archaeolgist who has been documenting Lasqueti's Archaeological Heritage
Elda Copley Mason published a book on it in 1976, documenting the early days of settlement and homesteading - Lasqueti Island: History and Memory
Pat Forbes also wrote an account - So You Want to Know about Lasqueti? available at Crystals & Chamomile
The Gulf Islands Guide has a nice little article on it: www.gulfislandsguide.com/history/lasqueti.htm
Doug H. and Darlene O. recently published Accidental Eden: Hippie Days on Lasqueti Island documenting the "back-to-the-land" invasion during the 1970's and 80's.
... is there anyone who wants to take on the project of developing a Lasqueti history e-book the whole community can contribute to?
Last summer I organized a group of 15 Lasqueti community members to help me think through the following questions:
How are the impacts of climate change going to affect us here on Lasqueti?
And what can we do to prepare for them?
With the reflections and ideas that came out of that focus group meeting I created a document called the “Lasqueti Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan”. It was submitted as my honours thesis as part of my bachelors degree in Environmental Studies at McGill. Below is just an excerpt of my 53 page thesis. Contact me if you would like to read the whole darn thing.
I have posted the most interesting and relevant parts of the thesis on this page. Check it out if you are interested. Below is just an excerpt of my 53 page thesis. Contact me if you would like to read the whole darn thing. And if anyone is interested in beginning to implement some of these adaptation strategies that the group came up with, let me know and I’d be happy to try and help coordinate efforts.
Thanks again to those 15 excellent focus group members who helped me with this research!
jengobby [at] hotmail [dot] com 514-546-3924
1) Lasqueti Climate Change Vulnerability/Resilience Assessment
The process we used to conduct the vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan involved five steps that are outlined as follows:
1) EFFECTS: What are the expected climate change effects of most concern locally?
2) IMPACTS: How do we expect these effects to impact Lasqueti and Lasquetians?
3) RESILIENCIES: In what ways are we resilient to the coming changes?
4) VULNERABILITIES: In what ways are we vulnerable to the coming changes?
5) ADAPTATION STRATEGIES: What can we do to prepare?
1.1 Effects -What are the expected climate change effects of most concern locally?
A study completed by the Capital Regional District describes the impacts projected for southern areas of coastal British Columbia within the century, including:
The following, in order of most mentioned to least mentioned, are the climate change effects of most concern to Lasqueti focus group members: a) Changes in precipitation, b) Increased storm activity, c) Various effects together creating problems for Food Security and d) Sea Level rise. For each of these, the focus group discussed how these effects may manifest in the Lasqueti socio-ecosystem.
1.2 IMPACTS: How do we expect these effects to impact Lasqueti and Lasquetians?
Wetter winters and drier summers are predicted for the Lasqueti region. The focus group envisioned the expected changes in precipitation as impacting the island in various ways. There was much concern expressed about reduced access to drinking water, irrigation for crops and drought conditions increasing the risk of forest fires and there being a lack of water with which to put out fires. There has already been drought problems in the summer months in recent years. Many people already live with limited water resources for much of the summer. Their water supply generally depends on their storage abilities. Some properties are endowed with large ponds or lakes, others store water in cisterns or construct ponds.
Fire is already a real threat to locals. The main form of household heating is wood fire in wood stoves. There have been a number of house fires in the last 10 years. The risk of house fires spreading to surrounding forests is very real as many houses are built in close proximity to trees and forest. The combination of existing water constraints and existing fire risk situates Lasqueti as vulnerable to the changes in precipitation that are predicted to be brought on by climate change.
More rain in the winter and less in the summer will also impact local people in that water is required for growing food. This will contribute to increased stresses on food security. There was also concern expressed that water being scarce (and this leading to food scarcity) will induce conflict among people. There was fear of impacts on wildlife and forests as drought conditions persist. There has already been evidence of cedar trees dying off in the last decade or so due to drier conditions. It was suggested by one participant that compromised health of ecosystems can also make them more vulnerable to invasive species and pest invasions.
Increased Storm Activity
During our impact envisioning, focus group participants expressed concern about increased storms. There were three main ways people anticipated storms impacting their lives: ferry cancelations, communication system breakdowns, and damage to houses and systems.
Already in the last two years, there have been more ferry cancelations due to storms than in the past (personal communication with ferry captain). Increased ferry cancelations can reduce access to off-island employment and more difficult access to food and other staple items. But of most concern to the focus group was the reduced access to health care services that could be caused by more common cancelation of ferry runs. Lasquetians need to travel to Vancouver Island in order to see doctors, dentists, obstetricians, midwives and other specialists. This travel is also required to get prescription medication from the pharmacy and to get their children vaccinated. All this hinges on the ferry’s ability to make the crossing. Clearly increased ferry cancelations will make it harder for residents to access routine health care.
More storm activity will also impact the access to emergency health care as the coast guard (which is called in by the first responders if deemed necessary) cannot make the crossing in large storms. And helicopters, which are called in when the coast guard is unable to come, are only able to land on Lasqueti in daylight hours.
The focus group members also expressed concern that increased storm activity can also lead to damage to houses and cars. It is not uncommon for trees to fall in wind storms and there has already been an increase in house and car damage from falling trees.
Perhaps of most concern to the focus group is that storms can cause breakdown in communication systems. The landline phone system relies on the diesel generator at the elementary school running. The phone wires themselves, buried in shallow ground around the island are already prone to breakdown by various causes, including storms. The island’s broadband internet service is also vulnerable to disruption as its reception towers are on bluff tops and each has its own alternative energy systems that can be damaged by intense wind and rain storm. The worry is not only the economic impacts of damaged infrastructure and hindrances to telecommuting to work, but more that people will not be able to call for help in cases of emergencies. People live far apart, and commonly out of shouting distance from the closest neighbor. The focus group identified this as an impact of great concern.
There was also the concern that emergency situations could generate increased involvement in island affairs by government or other “outside powers”. However, other participants suggested that it was more likely that being so remote and with such a small population, we would unlikely receive any help or resources from the ‘other side’, whether wanted or not.
Various effects together creating problems for Food Security
The focus group had strong concerns about combined effects of temperature increase, changes in precipitation, increased pests and invasive species making it more difficult for islanders to grow food crops. With rising food and transportation costs on Vancouver Island and increased storm activity making it harder to go shopping off island, there is more reason than ever to grow food on Lasqueti. There is already a vibrant community of farmers and gardeners. However, most crops grow in the summer season and so reduced rainfall in the summer season may constrain the ability to maintain or expand local food growing. It was also mentioned that increased rainfall in the winter can have detrimental impacts on plants as too much soil saturation of water can make plants rot and die. Temperature changes are expected to increase the likelihood of pests that can harm crops. Temperature changes can also change the types of crops that can be grown on Lasqueti. Focus group participants expressed fear that crops that they have been growing successfully may not be able to grow in hotter, drier conditions.
The concern was expressed that increasing storage capacity of rainwater catchment may help but that more ponds means more forest clearing which has implications for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. It was noted that increased clearing of land for food production has this problem as well. Another issue raised about food security was that many of the large farms are very close to sea level. Increased storm activity causing coastal erosion and rising sea levels may cause salinization of the water table. Both of these could contribute to threats of food security on Lasqueti Island.
Sea Level Rise
The participants of the focus group identified several local impacts from predicted sea level rise. Many houses are close to the hightide line currently. A rising high tide combined with increased storms eroding Lasqueti’s coastlines clearly pose a threat to property value and homes. Some people may have to rebuild and are concerned about the financial impacts of this. Locals are also worried about increased costs of insurance due to all these impacts. Another concerns is of rising sea level causing salinization of ground water and aquifers compounding the problems of food and water security associated with other climate change effects.
Yet another expected impact is that the cost of living will go up as governments divest responsibility for wharfs. This is already happening and it will be a considerable expense to islands to take responsibility for their own wharfs. This will be a bigger and more costly responsibility with rising sea levels and increased storms requiring more repair and maintaining of the wharfs.
One participant expressed concern about sea level rise, changes in ocean temperature and other ocean effects having impacts on the health and populations of forage fish and the rest of the coastal ecosystems on which the community is dependent.
Other impacts that we envisioned include possible economic uncertainty because of national and international instability and economic collapses due to climate change and other global problems. One man spoke of the social impact of fear and of how living in fear of climate change could pose a threat to social and psychological well-being in the community. Related to this is the concern about scarcity of food and water leading to increased conflict in the island. With no police presence on the island, conflict could lead to real stresses on the island’s informal governance structures and even pose threats to personal safety.
On a more positive note, one woman spoke of the coming effects of climate change being an opportunity for the community to deepen its response to change and for individuals to enhance their capacity for uncertainty. She spoke of the coming challenges as a way to help foster more collaboration and inter-reliance among Lasqueti islanders.
1.3 RESILIENCIES: In what ways are we resilient to the coming changes?
Having discussed the potential impacts of climate change on the Lasqueti socio-ecosystems, we next reflected on the local resiliencies and vulnerabilities that already exist there. A roundtable discussion ensued and below are some of the resiliencies identified.
Lack of easy access to grocery stores means that Lasquetians tend to have large amounts of food stored up. People buy grains and other food stuffs in bulk quantities to last them between ‘trips over to the other side’. As well much of the annual harvest of local crops happens in the late summer/fall and people dry, can, smoke or otherwise preserve the food they’ve grown in the summer in order to last them through to spring. Most islanders have a pantry full of nuts and seeds and canned jams, tomatoes, pickles, dried fruit, smoked fish and canned meat. Less dependent on commercial food products makes the locals feel better prepared for hard times of reduced access to groceries.
Another point of resilience identified is that as a rural people, they are used to living close to nature, of dealing with the “elements and storms and way of nature”. Similarly, they are on the most part used to living with less, to living without excess, and to being used to an irregular supply of things. One person noted proudly that “We wouldn’t be shaken up if we can’t get the newest iphone as folks on the other side would be”.
Efforts in the western world to prepare for climate change often focus on setting up rainwater catchment and renewable power systems and local food initiatives. Several participants commented on the resilience of the water and power systems on the island. Being off the grid means that there are no island wide power outages. Not only are the power and water system renewable and independent, they are individual. If one person’s power system ceases working this has no effect on other residents.
One participant commented: “It relates directly to the concept of resilience. Our systems are independent. It's not just the skills and everything, it’s that they're independent. It's not that we have all solar. If we had one centralized solar, that wouldn't make us resilient. It's the fact that we all have separate systems. If my panels get smashed by a tree I just paddle over to Peter's place and have a cup of tea there. The systems are independent which means they fail gracefully. It would have to be something really big to knock out all the power on the island. Somewhere there'd be power. In Victoria, there's a big storm and boom. The main line to Vancouver Island, if that's cut, that's it. It's a scale issue. It's not just local, it's individual.”
Lasquetians are used to getting buy with less energy and adjusting to different flows of power which makes them less ‘upset’ by changes in availability of goods and services. Further, because each household in fully responsible to set up and maintain their systems, most people know how to fix broken systems. This systemic independence renders them less vulnerable than people who need to call an electrician or plumber every time something breaks. This Lasquetian characteristic has wider implications in terms of general know-how. The average islander is highly skilled. She can grow food, build a house, install a solar panel, fix a leak in the water pipe, etc. As well most people have developed an amazing ability to be resourceful. As one man pointed out “People are willing to do anything, whatever needs to be done…we don’t wait for others to do things for them”.
Aside from the resiliency gained from existing infrastructure and skills, many participants brought up the community cohesion and impressive social capital as assets to the community’s ability to adapt. They noted a good flow of information among people, and the willingness to share skills, knowledge, tools, and resources. One woman commented on this:“I think we can easily ask each other questions and answer them...that sort of the thing. We have the teachers. If you have a question you can call them up and say hey how does this go? And they will help you. Or point you in the direction of someone who can help you.”
A small close knit population mean that in general, people all know each other. And there is a mutual support network whereby no one who may need help is likely to fall through the cracks. “We all know who our neighbours are, whether we like them or not. And when things are tough we check on each other and so on. Nobody's going to be left out.”
One woman talked of the ‘practice of caring for each other’ and we talked about the informal insurance system that seems to exist on the island. When someone is having hard times, they will be helped, be in an illness, old age or a house fire. The community comes together to provide for community members in need.
The group noted that due to the physical labour required and other aspects of the rural life, local are generally in good health and have impressive physical strength and stamina. Another aspect of Lasqueti life that fosters resilience and adaptive capacity is the fact it is less regulated by local and regional laws and bylaws. Several residents mentioned that this lack of regulation and bylaw enforcement means they can work on making adaptive changes that could, in other locals, be restricted by land-use and other bylaws.
1.4 Vulnerabilities: In what ways are we vulnerable to the coming changes?
Of primary concern to the group is the current communications systems. The phone and internet systems are both already prone to breakdown. Phone system depends on the generator at the school to be functioning, which in turn depends on a steady supply of diesel. This relates to another point of vulnerability identified: the monopoly on fuel. There is only one fuel pump on the entire island.. The gas pumps are only open a few days a week and at select hours. The fuel is significantly more expensive on Lasqueti than it is on Vancouver Island, and is generally bad quality (often has water content that can cause some damage to vehicles). Further, there are fairly regular episodes when no fuel is available at all.
Related to this, several focus group members cited isolation as a major vulnerability. One member admitted: “I think we're vulnerable transportation wise. If there's anybody who is sick it's hard to get them off island. And if our transportation gets affected by climate change it'll be even harder.” Relying on the ferry as the sole way to leave or return to the island also constitutes a vulnerability in the minds of the focus group. It makes it harder to access the things people need. It contributes to food insecurity and can exacerbate health issues.
Another issue is that having such a small and remote population means fewer government services are provided. Generally Lasquetians view this lack of involvement from the government as a good thing, but the group felt it makes them vulnerable because “we’re off the radar in terms of emergency response and such”. One participant expressed this in economic terms. “Our imports greatly exceed our exports. We rely heavily on the other side, yet we’re economically inconsequential to the other side. So we’d be last on the list of places to send help to. We are at the end of the supply chain.”
Another aspect of this vulnerability is garbage and waste disposal. The isolation of the island means it is difficult to get rid of waste. This is likely contributing to toxicity in the local environment. For example, dead batteries discarded in the forest leach battery acid into the watershed. This could affect access to clean water. It is likely having deleterious effects on other ecosystems and wildlife on island.
Interestingly, the independent and do-it-yourself spirit celebrated as a strong source of resilience in the previous conversation also came up as a vulnerability. One participant talked of this independent spirit as being “anarchist libertarian”. And expressed how it “can make it hard for people to work together. Especially with any intervention that is seen to be coming from above – the government or the other side. It’s the ‘don’t tell me what to do’ thing.” The group talked about this as hindering collaboration with off island people and institutions but also hindering collaboration between Lasquetians. Similarly, the strong sense of local identity and separateness foster a notion that the problems of the world stay over there. Several participants pointed this out as a vulnerability since it can nurture apathy and denial about global issues.
There were several people who mentioned food related vulnerabilities. One mentioned that being a community of gardeners and farmers increased vulnerability to new pests and diseases and other ways that climate change is predicted to create problems for agriculture. Another spoke of being concerned that the clear island delineation determines a fixed carrying capacity in terms of how many people it can support by way of food and water. One focus group member provided an estimate that only 8-10% of Lasqueti is arable and that we are probably at or very near carrying capacity at current population. Despite the ample local food growing efforts, residents still rely heavily for much of their food and agricultural inputs on imports from Vancouver Island.
Several folks talked about health related vulnerabilities. One pointed out that many local choose to not vaccinate their children and that this increases risk of spreading disease. Another person commented that “we’re vulnerable to spreading of disease between us…because of kissing and hugging all the time.” The aging population poses problems; greater service and care needs and fewer people able to provide them.
Some other points of vulnerability identified are structures of land ownership and land prices restricting the kind of people that could come here. This has led to an influx of people who can afford to buy land at the current prices and this is mostly older, retired people many of whom are buying property as a summer get-away and this is seen as weakening the community.
Lastly, one participant expressed concern that False Bay, (the cove where the ferry docks and where the restaurant/bar and store are located) is vulnerable in terms of defense.
2 ADAPTATION STRATEGIES: What can we do to prepare?
To identify climate change adaptation strategies, the focus group divided into four ‘sector’ groups. The sector groups are a) Wildlife and Wilderness, b) Water, c) Food Security, d) Social and Infrastructure. The group spent several hours in these sector groups brainstorming and strategizing. When this was done, we reconvened and reported back and further discusses the strategies. The final product of this brainstorming is the following:
2.1 The Strategies
a) Wilderness and Wildlife group:
The main concern of this sector group is that “the health of our ecosystems is vital to the health of our communities and to our ability to adapt, yet there are development pressures as well as climate-related threats to our forests and coastal region.” In order to offset the development pressures and their adverse effect on ecological and social systems, this group chose to focus on the following five adaptation strategies: conservation, education, proactive forest adaptive management, planting orchards, the consumption of invasive species.
The sector group envisioned this conservation strategy to reduce development pressure and its impact on local wilderness and wildlife though legally conserving threatened or sensitive parcels of land through covenants or through actual purchasing of the land. Conservation is defined here as maintaining and promoting growth of natural ecosystems. The protection of forest cover keeps water in the soil and is habitat for wildlife. There is a lot of crown land that is vulnerable to development that could be conserved to help protect water sheds (contributing to the adaptation strategies regarding water). Increasing and maintaining vegetation is not only an adaptation strategy, it is also mitigative in that it helps store carbon. The best agricultural land is also the best forest land, and as such there is some tension between conflicting priorities here: encouraging local food production and conserving forest ecosystems. This tension however may be resolved by strategic use of existing cleared arable land (more on this later).
There are some draw backs of this conservation strategy that were pointed out: land purchasing is expensive. This strategy could drive up land prices thus potentially exacerbating demographic issues discussed earlier. One benefit of this strategy is that the conservation branch of the Island Trust (Trust Fund) has in place several conservation programs and covenant mechanisms. Another is that it is already being promoted by the local association Lasqueti Island Nature Conservancy (LINK). Collaborative efforts with the Trust Fund and LINK can make this strategy come to fruition easily, possibly compensating for the drawback of the high cost aspect of conservation as an adaptation strategy for Lasqueti.
Planting orchards is another strategy. The idea is to plant fruit bearing trees in already cleared areas. Orchards attract and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Orchards could maintaining tree cover and sequester carbon while providing food for people and wildlife. Related to this is another strategy presented. It is an active approach to managing forests called proactive forest adaptive management. It was proposed that we can help our forests adapt to changing climatic conditions, by planting species that currently grow south of here (like genotypes from Mount Washington are). This is based on the prediction that ecosystems will migrate north as temperatures increase and precipitation patterns change. These two strategies could work together. The focus group has proposed that we plant fruit and nut bearing trees on public and private lands that are in need of restoration. They suggest that it would be wise to plant both varieties that we know grow well in current Lasqueti climatic conditions and varieties that grow well in the ecosystems that are expected to migrate to Lasqueti in the coming decades. By doing this we increase food security, restore wildlife habitat, sequester carbon and proactively help forests adapt to changing conditions.
Another strategy proposed by this Wilderness and Wildlife sector group addresses the problems posed to ecosystems by invasive species. This is already happening and is predicted to be made worse by changes in climate. The strategy is to encourage the invasive species as local food sources. This is not as weird as it seems at first glance. Some of the most prolific invasive species on Lasqueti are feral sheep and bullfrogs. The feral sheep which forage through Lasqueti’s forests and clearings impose extensive damage to the understory of the forest. Bull frogs have been doing serious damage to the local tree frog population. Yearling sheep, lamb and frogs legs, which are already consumed on island could be encouraged to become more of a staple food item. This would have the combined effects of reducing the damage to the wild ecosystems that the invasive species inflict and contributing to local food security. It is imperative that these invasive species be sustainably harvested if we would like them to be a food source long term, benefiting locals as the climate changes. The proposal is a program of regular rather than an eradication effort.
The final strategy presented by this sub-group is education. They stressed the importance of building on local knowledge, sharing of ideas, and providing awareness raising about how we rely on our wild ecosystems. They are suggesting an education program with a long term historical view with the goal of making Lasquetians all more aware of our own impacts and how to reduce those impacts on our wild areas. The team is promoting education as a strategy especially regarding the ocean. The importance of the health of forage fish and other crucial species. Collaboration between LINK, Lasqueti Forage Fish Conservation group and the adaptation focus group could help work towards these adaptation strategies. A first step could be to begin an educational and inspiring column in the local monthly paper on the ways to reduce our impacts on the local forests, watersheds and coastlines, underscoring the community’s dependence on the wellbeing of these systems.
b) The Water Management Group
The main concern of this sector group is the expected impacts from the changes in precipitation and temperature causing reduced access to water during the dry, summer season. As outlined earlier in this paper, the community needs water for growing crops, drinking, washing, fire protection, micro hydro power generation, etc. The main goal identified by this group is to increase water storage capacity. Given the expected increase in rainfall during the winter season, there may not be a lack of water if storage can be increased to provide water through a longer then currently normal dry season.
The specific strategies devised to increase storage capacity are: education (best practices for catching, conserving and filtering water) and neighbourhood watershed management groups.
Education is a low hanging fruit among these strategies because most residents already catch and store rainwater. It is not introducing a new idea to the community, but building on a familiar practice. The photo below is an example of a rain water catchment systems, including catchment surface and storage tanks. The goal of education around this would be in encourage expansion of storage for climate change adaptation purposes. Further goals of the educational strategies would encourage digging ponds and putting in cisterns rather than discouraging deep wells. Deep wells can lead to salinization of the fresh water via saltwater intrusion. Also encouraged will be gravity fed systems. In such a system, the stored water is up slope from the house hold or garden. These systems are considered better due to not needing pumping systems, which are often gas powered an thus contribute to co2 emissions. Ponds can be dug even where soil is sandy and this is done by lining the pond floor with locally available clay. Much of these water catchment best practices are already outlined in the Best Practices for Living and Building on Lasqueti document. As such, this education strategy need only help distribute these documents more widely and encourage the implementation of the practices outlined.
The concern about conflict due to increased water scarcity was addressed by the neighbourhood watershed management strategy. The sector group feels that they can prepare for this possible water scarcity best with a two-fold strategy: increasing storage but doing so in a way that explicitly deals with the reality that what one does with surface water affects others in the same watershed. This strategy will involve:
1) Watersheds to be mapped.
2) Those living in each watershed are encouraged to collaborate to establish the catchment potential of their watershed, in terms of ground water, rainfall and lakes, and streams.
3) These groups can then identify catchment goals based on total expected need for all the neighbourhood’s household, irrigation and fire safety needs.
4) With the help of local water catchment experts, the watershed management groups can devise a collective water storage system, using ponds, cisterns or a combination of the two. Digging, tank and line maintenance costs can be shared, thus reducing individual costs while increasing water access.
There was much enthusiasm for this strategy among the focus group as it builds on Lasqueti’s wealth of social capital and ability to work together. The island already has one very successful example of a cooperatively managed water source: Pete’s Lake which 30 households share and care for. This strategy builds on existing expertise, experience and local strengths. It will have multiple benefits: increased water access, reduced costs and reduction in the likelihood of conflict. If neighbourhoods have established strategies and agreements regarding use and conservation and they work together to increase storage capacity this will have two fold benefits: less scarcity and established methods of cooperation to reduce conflict over use in times of scarcity.
One complication for this strategy centers around water rights. Do residents of watershed have full access to the water? Are there issues of water rights that need to be addressed? According to one focus group member, the crown owns the water but private owners can own the lake, pond or stream bed. Users gain access with water licenses. He went on to say that “you don’t have rights to the whole water shed. You have a license to take out so much and store so much and then there can be multiple licenses. If there’s ever less water that can supply all of them it’s whoever had the first license that gets it and the others legally have to shut off their intake.”
Another important point addressed by this sector group was that increased storage of water does not necessarily extend to benefiting wilderness and wildlife during drought. Storage in lakes and ponds is better for this than storage in cisterns. They create habitat and accessible water source and contribute to ground water regeneration in ways that closed tanks do not. Another important point raised is that increased storage can lead to increased forest clearing, which creates co2 emissions. Both these concerns can be addressed by education efforts.
c) The Food Security Group:
The main objective of this sector group was to strategize ways to counter the impacts to food security induced by climate change effects such as drought conditions, invasive species, increased storms and higher temperatures. The main strategies outlined by the sector group were: neighborhood watershed management groups, education (about water tables, plant varieties, seed saving, dealing with diseases and pests) and strategic arable land use.
It was this group which came up with the idea for the neighbourhood watershed management groups and the water group loved it and adopted it for their purposes as well. One member of this sector group explained the rationale: “well, by developing plans by watershed, you’re linked like a neighbourhood. So if there was watershed planning, or like neighbourhood water watch…where you talk about where the catchments are, who’s using what, who’s got licenses, so you know, you can coordinate.” The implementation stages for the watershed groups are the ones detailed in the previous section.
In addition to the watershed group strategy, they identified the need for education in various aspects of food growing. One is ground water: “because it’s not visible, it’s hard to understand how it works”. As such it is easy to deplete ground water without knowing it. Andrew, the focus group’s resource manager offered to create a draft communication strategy around increasing awareness about ground water. Another education need is on the use of more diversity in crops and seeds, so that if something goes wrong with one variety, there are others to provide back up. Encouraging the development of local varieties, planting crops for the expected changing climate and the saving and sharing of seeds are also priorities established for education strategy.
These educational methods could include activities and booths at the Fall Fair and Saturday Market and columns in the local paper. This could be designed and implemented in collaboration with the Lasqueti Permaculture Guild, the Food Bank, the Saturday Market Association, and the Farmer’s Institute. The contribution of the adaptation focus group could be to enhance these by providing the additional dimension of local adaptation to climate change.
The final strategy of this sector group was strategic arable land use. The idea is that rather than clearing forested land to expand local food production, residents should maximize the use of existing cleared arable land. The focus would be on those areas that are not in immediate proximity to coast line where saltwater intrusion is a concern. The main steps are: to map the existing arable land on the island and identify the areas that are not currently in use but could be. The next step is to match up land owners who have available land with people wanting to grow food. The rationale behind this is the demographic challenges mentioned earlier in the paper: there is an aging population, who are farming less than they used to, and an influx of younger people with the desire and energy to grow food but without access to suitable land due to restrictive land prices. The idea is to facilitate land leasing or loaning so that young people with energy to farm are paired with residents who have unused land available for growing food. This is something that already happens informally but an intentional strategy can aid in coordinating this towards the goal of maximizing food production without further land clearing.
This strategy echoes concerns of other community groups, and as with the educational strategy, it builds on and contributes to existing community initiatives and combines efforts to work toward common community goals. These are not strategies that need to be built from the ground up and as such do not require much startup resource or energy. These strategies represent good mainstreaming with existing community goals and co-benefits with mitigation efforts.
d) The Social and Infrastructure Group
The final sector group was tasked with strategizing ways to reduce the vulnerability due to isolation and lack of access to health care in the case of ferry cancelations, and/or phone and internet malfunctions. Their strategies include: setting up alternative communication systems, encouraging vaccinations (and other ways of building health), creating list of professional health care providers on Lasqueti.
Although access to official healthcare on island is limited to a nurse visit one afternoon a week and a volunteer first responder emergency service, there are several health care professionals on island although not working on Lasqueti in an official capacity. They could be called on in times of emergency when access to Vancouver Island is cut off due to ferry cancelations. One member of this sector group expressed: “we do have a lot of good health care professionals on island here that would be good to involve or at least have available in times of emergency or if it was a major emergency and we couldn’t get people off island, they could be there so…I think of it as increasing the communication among ourselves and our knowledge base about who’s available and what systems exist here, now.”
The next strategy regards the communication system. The group asked the question: How do we get help in an emergency if a storm knocks down the tower and the internet doesn’t work or the phone lines go down as they already regularly do? The group figures that at present communication would happen by neighbours checking on each other during or after storms, though in a haphazard, possibly inefficient way. But if we did have a planned system of communicating, people could more quickly access help when needed. The group is recommending that this alternative communication be organized by way of the neighbourhood watershed management groups mentioned above. This would make sense, being that neighbours share watershed, but may not be ideal as the road network does not necessarily correspond to watersheds. This could hinder the ease of the ability of people to drive to check on each other. Regardless of how the emergency communication is set up geographically, the idea is to implement a network of buddy systems whereby each household has one or two other households to check in with them in person in the event of a storm or other event that takes down phone and internet communication. There was also talk about using CB radio systems and one member has been doing research into the feasibility of this. This strategy is quite promising in that it builds on the existing social norm of community care, and simply aids by planning communication in extreme situations.
Tides - Tide Chart - Tide Table
Local Weather Sites
North Pacific Wind/Wave Forcasting Models (NOAA / NWS)
(Warning: don't try these with a dial-up connections - you'll be waiting a lonnnggggg time!)